Urbanized: A Documentary Film

Directed and Produced By: Gary Hustwit
Distributed By: Swiss Dots (independent)
Runtime: 85 minutes

Rating: 8/10

Have you ever been in a major city and just looked at everything around you wondering how so many different pieces could have come together into a package of urbanity? Gary Hustwit has, and it’s the reason he set up to finish his trilogy of design documentaries analyzing the largest designs of them all: city development. If you have Netflix Instant and watch docs, you have probably come across the first two: Helvetica and Objectified. Both are excellent docs about fascinating subjects. I mean, this guy made a 90-minute documentary about a font type and it was compelling. Rock on. From fonts, he analyzed objects themselves, from something as complex as a MacBook Air to something as seemingly simple as a chair. Now, Hustwit has moved up several higher layers to analyze cities themselves: perhaps the most complex design structures we know, in Urbanized.

Who is allowed to shape our cities, and how do they do it? Unlike many other fields of design, cities aren’t created by any one specialist or expert. There are many contributors to urban change, including ordinary citizens who can have a great impact improving the cities in which they live. By exploring a diverse range of urban design projects around the world, Urbanized frames a global discussion on the future of cities.

Hustwit takes us around the world from the skyscrapers of New York City to the slums of India and proves that no matter how things appear from the outside (be it calm and peaceful or cramped and dirty) the city itself is always meticulously planned by hundreds and hundreds of individuals who each have to make sure their piece of the puzzle fits with the larger whole. Seemingly mundane things like how many shops you have per block, where you place traffic lights or bike lanes, building metro systems underground versus aboveground, and more turn into monstrous problems that must be overcome for the city to come to fruition.

The New York High Line is a success of independent citizen-driven urban planning and restoration, as shown in Urbanized.

This is all coming from a filmmaker who managed to make a single font type immensely interesting, so you know when given something as filled with intrigue as a city Hustwit will not disappoint, and he doesn’t! Interviewing urban design experts, city officials, and sometimes the city planners themselves, Hustwit examines why a city like New York actually disappoints where Copenhagen prevails.

For Urbanized, Huswit took to Kickstarter to gather additional funds so he could finish up shooting a few locations and push the project through post-production in time for international festivals (the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival). Two of us here at HTTP donated to said Kickstarter project, and I (Hunter Furnish) was even able to attend the New York/US premiere of the film in New York City. I had a great time meeting Gary, the editors, and the two guys who are behind the development of the NYC High Line, which is featured in the film.

It’s a great film, and it is now available for digital download! It’s a good price for a good doc, but most important is that you will be directly funding an independent filmmaker. Check out this link for more details, and if you haven’t already also watch his first two documentaries which are both available on Netflix Instant or (if you so desire) for purchase on Blu-Ray/DVD.

[youtube http://youtu.be/6jpN8kI0-pY]

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